Courses / Fall 2023

Fall 2023

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    Course Number: HA 290.1 | CCN: 30873

    Graduate seminar: Ecologies, Aesthetics, and Histories of Art

    Sugata Ray

    Thursday, 2:00-5:00pm

    Nuclear disasters. Acid rain. The mass extinction of animal and plant species. The devastating environmental crisis that the planet faces today has fundamentally transformed the way we perceive human interaction with the natural environment. New forms of thinking such as postcolonial ecophilosophy, actor-network theory, new materialisms, and posthumanism have challenged Enlightenment distinctions between natural and human history. Can art history, a discipline primarily engaged in the study of human creativity, also breach the natural/human history binary? What, this seminar asks, would such a history of art and architecture look like?
    As a discipline, art history takes objects, structures, and artistic representations produced by the human species as its principal archive and locus of analysis. But could intersubjective paradigms such as floraesthesis (life patterns of plants in relation to human and nonhuman ecologies) allow us to see visual representations of the natural world as something more than a mode of human ordering of the environment? Could an engagement with the vital materialism of stone lead us to rethink the history of lithic architecture? Inescapably located in deep time, the ecological is omnidirectional and rhizomatic in its scalarity. Therefore, rather than focusing on specific temporal periods, the seminar will explore the interconnected ecologies of planetary systems and art and architecture practices across space and time through specific case studies. Our case studies will range from hydrology in the ancient worlds, medieval bestiaries, early modern landscape painting, and the biopolitics of colonial tropicalism to media images of environmental catastrophes and the ecological turn in recent art.

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